More with less! – Ecodesign is the art of doing more with less. Ecodesign is, therefore, more than just energy-efficient and recyclable products. It takes into account the entire life cycle of a product – from the extraction of raw materials, production, distribution and uses to recycling and disposal. Using fewer materials and less energy and generating more benefits are aspects of extended design philosophy. Questions of user behaviour, reparability and durability are also addressed.
Ecodesign, however, is not only product-oriented but system-oriented. The focus is on workflows and processes, not only on objects. On the one hand, design generates material artefacts but also fulfils communicative and identity-forming functions. It shapes our individual and collective everyday culture.
The aim is to recognise the economic and ecological potentials of ecodesign, to acquire skills and to apply them to concrete examples. The design process requires technical skills and aesthetic sensitivity. But also systemic-structural thinking – the competence to see products systemically, to anticipate the effects on the environment and society.
The environment is becoming an increasingly important factor in product development and design. The starting point for finding a way out of the ecological crisis is the product policy of industry. External framework conditions such as laws, standards, but also the wishes and demands of commercial and private customers provide incentives for companies to offer more environmentally friendly products and services.
The consideration of environmental aspects in product development can become an essential driver of innovation and help to save costs and gain market advantages.
Learning modules are methods, procedures and tools of eco-design, which include tools for ecological analyses, cost accounting instruments and creativity techniques.
Longevity is a question of material and construction – but also a question of aesthetics. Good design that is functional and user-friendly also takes sustainability and ecology into account. Ecodesign enables products to last longer.
Service instead of product
Ecodesign is not only about the design of material goods, but it is also about the environmentally sound and user-friendly design of services and systems. Products and service processes are planned, designed, produced and implemented. In the process, resources are consumed, waste and pollutants are created that burden the environment and health.
Life Cycle Philosophy
Ecodesign in the early days had the goal of avoiding waste and pollutants during production and thus minimizing material and energy consumption. Today’s ecodesign strategies aim to eliminate adverse environmental impacts throughout the entire product life cycle of a product – from raw material extraction, production and distribution, use and reuse/recycling or disposal.
Utility value and symbol function
Sociological and design-scientific findings have shown that a purely technical view of products and services does not go far enough. Social, aesthetic and symbolic functions of design usually have a more significant impact on human consumer behaviour and the useful life of products than the pure product utility value.
Life cycle assessments
Principles and rules for the evaluation of life cycle assessments of products can be found in the ISO standards 14040:2006 and 14044:2006 and (DIN EN ISO 14040, DIN EN ISO 14044). According to these standards, a life cycle assessment comprises four elements: Definition of objectives, life cycle inventories, impact assessments and the evaluations.
- Preparation of life cycle assessments (LCA). Analysis and evaluation of the ecological effects during the entire product life cycle, the material and energy turnover and the resulting environmental impact.
- Product Carbon Footprint of products and operating sites. An internationally binding ISO standard (ISO 14067) and an internationally harmonized guideline are currently being developed.
- Water Footprint. An internationally binding ISO standard on the Water Footprint (ISO 14046) is currently being drafted.
Product development is increasingly caught in a field of tension between technical, economic and ecological requirements. The strategic coupling of ecological aspects with traditional development goals is essential:
- a sound understanding of the environmental impact of products
- Development of environmentally and market-oriented products
- ecological valuation methods
- conceptual/constructive measures for ecological optimisation
- Interaction of technical and economic requirements
- Combination of market and environmental requirements
- Exploitation of environmental and market potentials
- Learning to develop innovative products
- Optimization of environmentally friendly products
The objective of ecodesign is to design products, services and systems in such a way that the overall environmental impact is reduced at all stages of life. Fundamental to this is life cycle thinking, durability (including aesthetic longevity!), careful use of resources and the avoidance of pollutants and waste.
Ecodesign, therefore, does not only want to contribute to a relief of the environment on the material and technical side. It is essential to find new answers to individual values, life plans and cultural practices. The design process is complex and takes into account technical, aesthetic, economic, social and ecological aspects. Ecodesign, with its sustainable design approach, thinks ahead in terms of social, environmental and economic consequences. The aim is to minimize environmental impacts and to consider the social impact of material or immaterial designs.